A Farmer is Born

A Farmer is Born

On this  date 128 years ago in a farmhouse three miles northwest of Mt. Pulaski in Logan County, Illinois, Eliza Harding Downing gave birth to her second son, Ellis. The couple already had an 18 month old.

When Ellis was two he got another brother.  This picture was taken when he was about 4, just before his maternal grandparents, their other daughter and three sons, none of whom were married at the time, moved to Iowa. His father’s father had served with his mother’s father during the Civil War. His paternal grandfather died in Arkansas as the war ended of “typhoid pneumonia.”

William H. Downing family

Apparently there was good rail service between north central Iowa because there seems to have been visiting between Eliza in Illinois and her family in Iowa.

The fourth and final son came when Ellis was 8. The family was complete. Or they gave up hope of ever having a girl.

The family had been living on land which William had inherited from his grandfather as his father’s heir when he came of age. Now he was able to purchase more of it. With the help of his sons he cleared the land. They wore high leather boots to protect them from snakes. They built a new house half mile east. Things were going well.

Then, in the fall of 1903 tragedy, struck. The oldest son, Clarence, caught typhoid. Then Ellis got it. William nursed Ellis while Eliza cared for the younger boys and the recovering Clarence. Then William got typhoid. Both of the boys survived but William did not. Just before Christmas he died leaving a widow and four minor sons.

It was not the plan for Ellis to be a farmer. He went to business school. But, in the end, Ellis was the one who stayed on the land and farmed while his brothers went their  ways. Each of his brothers and their wives had one son. Ellis and his wife had three sons. After 11 years he had a daughter – and then another one.

He died two weeks after his 90th birthday.


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